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"Airplane!" is, was and always shall be the master of spoof movies. It
is single-handedly responsible for literally inventing a sub-genre of
comedy. It is the ultimate Silly Movie. A satire of the disaster movies
of the 1970s, particularly the "Airport" series, nothing makes sense
and it doesn't need to. There's no real plot. Just laughs - and plenty
It was helmed by the ZAZ trio (Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker), whose dedication to making the audience laugh is surprisingly adamant. Recent spoofs may have left a bad aftertaste in your mouth, but it seems to be a universal agreement: "Airplane" is the funniest film of its genre ever made. (Closely followed by "The Naked Gun" - also penned by the ZAZ trio - perhaps.)
The plot: Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is a war veteran-turned-cab-driver who decides to chase after his girlfriend, an airline stewardess named Elaine (Julie Hagerty), who has dumped him in order to pursue a new life. Right before her plane takes off, Ted climbs aboard, hitching a ride in order to woo her back into a relationship again.
When the aircraft is in midflight, both pilots become very ill after eating their meals. Eventually many passengers begin to show symptoms of a rare disease, apparently transmitted by the food. Onboard, Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) takes care of the sick passengers as Ted - an ex-fighter pilot from the war - decides to try and land the plane. If he messes up they will all die, and in a particularly funny scene, the pressure becomes so unbearable that he begins to literally sweat gallons in the cockpit.
That is essentially all the film is about, but most of its duration is spent cracking jokes. Spoof films are entirely different from other movies because normally we would criticize a film if it considered its plot to be the least important element. Not so here. This is a truly brainless piece of celluloid - a movie that doesn't try to be anything that it isn't. From the opening credits - that cleverly spoof "JAWS" - to the closing we realize that this is an altogether unique film going experience.
The movie's biggest laughs come through unexpected flashbacks, such as when Ted remembers where he first met Elaine in a crummy bar ("...it was worse than Detroit..."), and begins to disco-dance a la John Travolta from "Saturday Night Fever" (complete with Bee Gees soundtrack blaring in the background and the famous Travolta pose). Then, later, we are taken back to when Ted was hospitalized after the war, and finds out that he was responsible for the death of six men. "Seven, actually," he is informed, which adds to the pain of the moment for him.
Though this movie is very funny, many jokes misfire. If you're not pop culture savvy and you don't remember Mrs. Cleaver from TV's "Leave it to Beaver", the humor is going to go over your head. But unlike many comedies, "Airplane!" offers something unique for each person. I know that as a film lover, I picked up on many movie in-jokes that some people might not recognize. And then there were the gags that I first missed but picked up after a second viewing, or when someone explained them to me, or both. And I'm sure there are many yet that I'm not aware of. It seems that every time I watch it, there's something else to laugh at that I missed previously.
"Airplane!" not only was a huge success in 1980 (the year of its release), spinning off a horde of imitators and one sequel - it was also responsible for crowning Leslie Nielsen "The King of Spoof." Prior to "Airplane!" Nielsen had been a veteran of more serious productions, stemming back to playing cowboys on "The Mickey Mouse Club" and other embarrassing attempts at acting. However, Nielsen later claimed that he had always wanted to do a comedy, even when he first started acting seriously with projects such as the classic "Forbidden Planet" (one of the best science-fiction films ever made). He later reunited with the ZAZ trio for "The Naked Gun" trilogy, appeared in similar spoof films over the years such as "Wrongfully Accused" and "Scary Movie 3," and had his iconic comedy shtick ripped off by many screen veterans - most noticeably by George Gaynes in the unbearable "Police Academy" (1984).
When it comes down to a single evaluation, "Airplane" is simply the best spoof film ever made. It's like a MAD Magazine parody come to life. There are the occasional misfires, but unlike many other spoof film imitators, this one contains far more hits. The deadpan acting is genius and everything else fits into place, resulting in what may arguably be one of the absolute funniest films ever conceived and put on the big screen. And if you decide to watch the movie, don't blink - you might miss a gag or two. The "Police Academies" will come and go but "Airplane!" will never be forgotten.
It is my understanding that there are still a few people in the world that
haven't seen "Airplane!" yet.
Those people probably are still waiting for electricity, indoor plumbing and all the other great advances in humanity, too.
To see "Airplane!" is to take part in the great move to subvert all self-importance in movies, which this film does with great relish (and plenty of corn).
You get a chance to see such "serious" actors as Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack and Leslie Nielsen subvert themselves and their own personnae into near oblivion thanks to the writing/directing team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker. Not to mention visual and verbal send-ups of darn near every movie that ever took place in the air, and a few that didn't, but should have.
Kudos to Leslie Nielsen, who with this movie gave himself the greatest reinvention of any actor this century. At one time, he was the very model of stoic sensibility.
I swear. Seriously.
A looooong time ago.
Ten stars. A laugh riot.
And I STILL think this would make a great in-flight movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
War pilot Ted Striker boards a flight for the first time since the war in
order to stop his relationship with stewardess Elaine breaking up.
Unfortunately the fish meal on the flight is bad and causes the crew to go
sick leaving the plane on automatic pilot. With Striker the only man on
board who can land the plane can he overcome his fears of failure stemming
from the war?
This without a doubt one of the best comedies of cinema, it is far and away
the best spoof ever made - and it was made when this type of humour was
still fresh. From the opening moments right down to the closing credits
this is hilarious. The plot is a straight spoof of 1970's Airport disaster
movies, and is only an excuse for a range of jokes. However the plot is
bang on - it's detailed enough that it could be a serious disaster movie and
allows the film to poke fun directly at the disasters movies
The cast are perfect. For Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty this represents the
best things they've ever done. Both play the straight men for the majority
and are relied upon to take it all seriously and drive the plot while jokes
occur all round them, that said they deliver many themselves but always
straight faced. Nielsen and Bridges are also spot on as stereotypical
doctor and traffic control guy who "chose the wrong day to give up
drinking"! They are both so straight faced that they make the whole thing
seem even more silly. Robert Stack is excellent as the man brought in to
talk the plane down, playing the butch masculine figure ignoring all the
madness around him. Also on the ground, Stephen Stucker is great as the
camp controller who delivers many brilliant one liners as he walks through
scenes. Peter Graves and Kareen Abdul Jabbar are great as two of the pilots
that almost are in a different movie the things they say!
The film is a spot on spoof of disaster movies, making fun of the many
clichés of the genre - the nuns on board, the sick child, the "only man who
can land the plane", the poisoned food etc. But it does more than just poke
fun at these - it is hilarious in it's own right. All the cast deliver
their lines brilliantly and the script! The script is excellent - I'm not
going to start listing lines but they come so thick and fast that you
usually miss something because you're laughing at the last
This is the mould for all spoofs - this is the one to beat. While many spoofs are hit and miss this is almost a total hit. Decades on and many viewings later this is still as fresh and as funny as it ever was. A brilliant, brilliant comedy!
Unfortunately, Airplane! has been, for me, one of those comedies that I have
seen so many times in the video store that its appeal has gradually worn
down to almost nothing, resulting in a total absence of interest in renting
it. I eventually watched it one day because I worked at the video store and
could rent movies for free, and was continuing on my desperate attempt to
watch every movie in the store (a goal which continues to this day, although
by now I've come to realize that it's never going to happen). During my
quest, by the way, I also saw the old 1970 film Airport, probably ten years
after having seen parts of Airplane!, and realized that this is one of the
many movies that inspired Airplane!
In general, I'm a little cautious about movies that have exclamation points in the titles, but Airplane! is without a doubt one of the funniest movies ever made. Consider, for example, those little montages that studios sometimes put together and put at the beginning of movies when they come out on videotape, honoring the great movies that the studio has made in the past. They show lots of memorable clips from their old movies (and I always write all of these titles down, determined to watch them all, and then promptly lose the list that I made) to remind you how great they are. I had a good time watching Airplane! and picking out how many scenes are in the movie that can and do go into those memorable montages.
Airplane! is made up of a series of hilarious scenes that string together a thin shoestring plot, which ironically speaks in the movie's defense. In general, movies with weak stories that are driven along by comedic stunts and pranks and whatnot tend to be pretty weak, but Airplane! is not driven by stunts to cover a weak story as much as the quality of the stunts and the slapstick comedy is so good that they overshadow everything else. It's interesting to watch someone like Robert Stack so many years ago and see that he looked and talked exactly like he did in Unsolved Mysteries so many years later, a show the seriousness of which boggles the mind, given that it's hosted by someone who did so well in a movie like this one.
My favorite thing about this movie is, obviously, the huge amount of sound bytes that comes from it, just the cleverness of the way it was written and put together. You have the main character's `drinking problem,' the airport announcers (`Listen, Betty, don't start up with your white zone sh*t again '), the stress of the people investigating the situation on the plane (`Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking/drinking/amphetamines.'), the plays on words (`There's a problem at the control tower!' `What is it?' `It's the big tower where the air traffic controllers talk to the planes.'), that one airport employee who was suspiciously bubbly and excited throughout the entire movie (while providing some of its best comedy), and then of course were the situational gags, such as Robert Stack pulling off his sunglasses to reveal another pair underneath (arguably the most famous scene in the entire film).
This is a movie where a list like this could go on and on, and I'm sure if you go to the memorable quotes page on the IMDb you'll find a gigantic list of hilarious quotes from the movie there. It is no secret that this is something of a childish and immature comedy, but it is smartly written and has so many great scenes and bits of dialogue that it's one of those rare movies that makes you want to take notes so you won't forget a lot of the lines. It is one of the earlier versions of Leslie Nielsen's spoofs, a genre in itself which went on to tremendous success with lots of great (and some not so great) spoofs to follow.
Airplane is simply the funniest movie of all time. It handles the broad range of parody, satire, and plain silliness expertly, and has some of the greatest one-liners and sight gags ever put in a movie. Sure some of the jokes are dated, but great comedies (especially parodies) exist in the moment, and you have to expect that. The fact is, enough jokes hit the bullseye that it really is one of those rare movies where you are laughing constantly. I am, at least. This movie launched Leslie Nielsen's career as a comedy actor, although he still hasn't made anything this good (Naked Gun comes closest, but it's still light years away from this). Do any movies come close to hitting the zenith that this one does? "Young Frankenstein" comes close, but even the best Mel Brooks film doesn't top this. There has simply never been a funnier movie than "Airplane!" and for that, it deserves to be considered one of the greatest MOVIES of all time (I know for many people that's a stretch, but I stand by it; I've been watching it my whole life and there's still nothing I flat-out enjoy watching more).
Still one of funniest spoof movies ever made, Airplane is one of the
first and one of the best around.
Hot Shots, Loaded Weapon even Naked Gun have tried to follow in its footsteps, but they have failed to hit the mark. That's not to say that they are bad movies, just that its difficult to follow a movie of this calibre.
Spoof movies definitely have there place in everyone's collection, but this is probably the best you'll ever see in the genre, if you have never seen it and you fancy a laugh, I can't recommend a better film, even though it has dated; it's still hilarious 9/10
This is voted as one of the funniest comedies of all time, and it deserves
that honor! The film is filled with hilarious gags! Sure, in every one of
these campy farces, there's usually a few gags that are way too silly. In
this case, it was the "drinking problem" gag and that annoying gay man who
works on Lloyd Bridges' staff. But when I can actually count on my hand how
many gags didn't work, that's a good sign. The majority of the film sent me
into a frenzy of laughter! One of my favorites is when the blow-up
auto-pilot runs out of air and Julie Hagerty blows it back up again. You'll
have to see the movie to find out why it was so hilarious! I also got a
great kick out of the running gag in which every passenger who listens to
Robert Hays ends up killing themselves. This is definitely the Zuckers and
Abrahams in top form! Unfortunately, I haven't seen a great spoof in years.
The "Scary Movie" films were pretty good, but incredibly lewd and crude.
And obviously the Zuckers and Abrahams have much better eyes for satire than
the Wayans brothers. I caught "Scary Movie" on cable and watched it a
second time, and I didn't laugh nearly as many times as I did the first
time. I can watch "Airplane" 200 times and still laugh like there's no
tomorrow! The film was made back when comedies didn't go strictly for sex
and toilet gags to make an audience laugh. This was back when writers used
to employ this quality called "wit." "Kentucky Fried Movie" had some racy
gags, but even those were witty for the most part. There is a certain
rhythm in every gag that helps make the film work. For example, Lloyd
Bridges starts out by saying "I think I picked the wrong day to quit
smoking." Then he says he picked the wrong day to quit drinking. And when
he finally says "I picked the wrong day to quit amphetamines," I was
laughing my head off! So basically, you watch a film like this and feel the
urge to mail a copy of the video to the Wayans Brothers and whatever
crackheads wrote "Not Another Teen Movie," along with a note saying "THIS is
how to make a spoof!"
There are so many other gags worth mentioning, including the "Saturday Night Fever" sendup, which is definitely one of the best comic moments caught on film! That scene also contains my favorite line: "I told the guy next to me to pinch me to make sure I wasn't dreaming." After that voice-over, we see the guy next to Robert Hays repulsed and walking away from him. Another great example of perfect comic timing and delivery!
If you want to get some authentic belly laughs--I'm not talking chuckles, but actual LAUGHS!--you must check out "Airplane." Trust me, movies don't get much more original or funny than this!
My score: 9 (out of 10)
If you really need a good laugh out loud movie, to make you feel good, this is one of them! The 1st time we saw this movie, on cable, not long after it came out, we were rolling with laughter! This movie was one of the all-time best, with Lloyd Bridges, and that crazy air traffic controllers' scenes were the funniest. With every line of the movie having a comeback, and another meaning--this movie ranks up there with the pool scene in Caddyshack as one of the best--you're rolling with laughter! With Lloyd Bridges slowly going insane throughout the movie, with an all-star cast including Robert Hayes,very funny, they even had Ethel Merman doing a cameo, (not long before her death), it was hilarious. Even the sequel came out to be as good as the original.
In a tense moment where Ted Striker (Robert Hays) needs to land an airplane where the pilots (Peter Graves and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) have fallen sick, and several passengers need to get off the airplane for various reasons, all Striker can think to himself (with an echo in his mind, of course) is "I've got to concentrate... concentrate... concentrate... I've got to concentrate... concentrate... concentrate... Hello?... hello... hello... Echo... echo... echo... Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon... Manny Mota... Mota... Mota..." That pretty much sums up the seriousness of Airplane!, the lampoon of the 1970s Airport movies, and pretty much every other disaster movie pumped out by Hollywood. The same guys who pieced together the Naked Gun movies write and direct this silly movie. Most of the jokes need to be seen to be properly experienced, the first rate actors are what brings the laughs. Robert Stack plays it straight, over-the-top straight, as a problem solver for the airline who happens to wear 2 pairs of sunglasses at all times. Stack's comedic timing and deadpan delivery bring out some of the biggest laughs of the film. Lloyd Bridges is the over-worked, over-stressed traffic controller who has picked the wrong week to stop drinking, smoking, and sniffing glue. And Leslie Neilson plays a doctor who has an acute sense for the obvious, surely one who could save the passengers and airline crew if they land safely, just don't call him Shirley. A few cheap laughs, a few misses, but over all, a pretty funny movie. If you like The Naked Gun, you'll like Airplane!
Very rarely does a film come out that is as truly brilliant as
Airplane. It has everything that a comedy should have. The cast is
fantastic, the jokes hilarious and almost constant.
One of the best things about Airplane that I have found is that the jokes are not all obvious, and because of this it has far more re-watchability than most comedies, as every time you watch it you pick up on more of the subtler jokes and background sight gags.
It is a film that manages to cater for almost all tastes in humour, from dry wit to slapstick via spoofery and dark humour. If you haven't seen this film you MUST watch it. This is one of those few films that everybody can enjoy. It's fairly rare to find a comedy the whole family can enjoy, most are either unsuitable for children or too childish for adults, but Airplane manages to find that balance where all ages can enjoy it.
In conclusion, if you have yet to see this film, watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again.
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